Saturday, November 29, 2008

Higher SAT Scores, Better Graduation Rates

Peter D. Salins makes the case that SATs predict graduation rates more accurately than high school grade-point averages.

Among the campuses that raised selectivity, the average incoming student’s SAT score increased 4.5 percent (at Cortland) to 13.3 percent (Old Westbury), while high school grade-point averages increased only 2.4 percent to 3.7 percent — a gain in grades almost identical to that at campuses that did not raise their SAT cutoff.

Yet when we look at the graduation rates of those incoming classes, we find remarkable improvements at the increasingly selective campuses. These ranged from 10 percent (at Stony Brook, where the six-year graduation rate went to 59.2 percent from 53.8 percent) to 95 percent (at Old Westbury, which went to 35.9 percent from 18.4 percent).

Most revealingly, graduation rates actually declined at the seven SUNY campuses that did not raise their cutoffs and whose entering students’ SAT scores from 1997 to 2001 were stable or rose only modestly. Even at Binghamton, always the most selective of SUNY’s research universities, the graduation rate declined by 2.8 percent.
While I think his thesis is interesting, the more pertinent take away from this analysis is just how low the graduation rate is with or without higher SAT scores. Going from 1/6 of your students graduating to 1/3 is a good improvement, but it still isn't good. Even 59.2% is really low in my book. Beyond trying to get students with higher SAT scores, I think these schools need to look at their entire process and question why so many students don't graduate. My guess is that they can make improvements in graduation rates far greater than what they are seeing from requiring higher SAT scores.

via NY Times


Rebelfish said...

At least these are college graduation rates. Maybe a large chunk decided college wasn't the thing for them. But that brings up a question that are the schools wasting resources on these half of their students that don't even come out with a degree?

Fat Knowledge said...

Yeah, that is a good question. But more than the schools wasting their resources, I am more concerned about students who take out loans and then don't graduate and don't get the increase in salary due to having a degree.

While there are a few people like Bill Gates or Ted Turner who got a lot out of college without graduating, I think for most who don't graduate it is not a valuable use of their or the school's time or money.

As for whether you need better screening up front to get students who are more likely to graduate, or a better system to get those in college to graduate, I am not sure.

Audacious Epigone said...

IQ (which the SAT proxies well for) vs. diligence (study habits) and shrewd manuevering (classes taken) (which GPA proxies well for)

The winner--IQ.

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.